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Vaetchanan 2020

The Haftarot for the next seven weeks, which finish on the Shabbat before Rosh Hashanah, are called the ‘Seven of Consolation'. The first, from the Book of Isaiah, begins with the words “Nachamu Nachamu Ami – Comfort, comfort My people”.

Last week we were preparing ourselves for the sadness of Tisha B'Av, for sitting on the floor to mourn the loss of the Temple in Jerusalem and the tragedies that have unfolded over the past 2,000 years.

The week before members of my family were sitting on shiva chairs, mourning the loss of a husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather.

All this against a backdrop of war, famine, terrorism and a pandemic.

There are currently many reasonsto ask ‘the Almighty to give comfort to the mourners of Zion and Israel’.

But surprisingly, starting from Shabbat Vaetchanan there is a noticeably different in mood.

It’s Nachamu and we’re more positive.

It’s Nachamu and we’re more hopeful.

It’s Nachamu and we’ve entered the wedding season!

But what has caused this change of attitude?

Nothing is substantively different from last week. Moshiach did not come, the Temple has not been rebuilt and my family are still grieving. The world remains stressed, chaotic and dangerous.

A thought, perhaps linked to the proximity of Tisha B’Av and the shiva.

Both were marked by the act of ‘getting up from the floor’ - raising ourselves from the ‘mourners’ position’.

Despite the fact that the day is still sad, and we are not supposed to learn Torah (which gladdensthe heart), and still not allowed to eat, drink or wearleathershoes, part way through Tisha B'Av we ‘get up’.

Despite the rawness of the loss and still being avelim, after 7 days of shiva the bereaved ‘get up’.

The mood begins to change and slowly we start the journey to a ‘new normal’.

We do not forget the loss of the temple or that someone is missing from our lives, but we transition from looking backwards to looking forwards, to looking up not down, comforted in the knowledge that we are not alone. After all, G-d Himself commanded the Prophet Isaiah to support the people of Israel on this auspicious Shabbat of Consolation.

As has been said many times, we are living in unprecedented times, but we must accept the support on offer and have faith that the sadness will end and happy days will be here again.

Richard Segalov

More documents on this Parshah: